Orthodontic treatments paid for but interrupted overnight after the bankruptcy of an American company, whitening kits dangerous to health, sold completely illegally… The unscrupulous business of dental aesthetics, widely promoted on the networks social, wreaks havoc.
On TikTok or Instagram, influencers have propagated the fashion for the “Hollywood smile”, very white and perfectly aligned teeth, and are providing their so-called advice to obtain the same result in record time.
Cheap and invisible orthodontics
The products highlighted are often very cheap compared to the treatments offered in dental offices – the prices of which are not regulated for these aesthetic services – and not reimbursed by Social Security for adults.
This is what pushed millions of customers to believe in the promises of invisible orthodontics “the cheapest on the market”, in “just a few months”, entirely at home and “lifetime guarantee”, from the American Smiledirectclub. The principle: transparent aligners sold online, to wear every day to straighten your teeth. At the beginning of December, its customers stopped smiling: the company filed for bankruptcy and informed them that it would not continue their treatment, advising them to turn to a health professional. “These people have not seen a dentist, so they cannot turn against anyone,” explains Dr. Geneviève Wagner, of the Order of Dental Surgeons.
Practices dangerous to health?
Orthodontics is not only aesthetic, emphasizes Dr David Couchat: “Aligning a few incisors in front can be quick, but there is a lot of work to be done afterwards for the way in which we will use the jaws to chew” . “Some companies “make a diagnosis” without the intervention of a health professional, so it is not a real medical diagnosis,” also denounces Professor Christian Lequart, of the French Union for Oral Health. “A problem of bone loss around the teeth, tooth loosening or gum disease will not be detected with a simple online scan (as these companies offer on the internet),” he laments. “And if these procedures are carried out on a diseased mouth, the long-term risk is to lose your teeth. »
Strips, whitening pens, kits with gel application and lamps or even toothpastes: the other stars of the networks are whitening products at unbeatable prices, around twenty euros for most, compared to 300 euros to 1,200 euros for clarification at the dentist.
What does the law say in France?
Concerning the practice itself, David Couchat, of the French Federation of Orthodontics, recalls that: “It is an illegal practice of dentistry from the moment an act is performed in the mouth.” However, these companies are not breaking the law since the customer is the only one who puts his hands in his mouth. Another legal breach: “it is not written anywhere in the law that straightening a tooth is a medical procedure,” regrets Dr. Couchat.
Advertising for some of these products, such as aligners, is authorized: the Public Health Code considers that these medical devices present “a low risk to human health”, in the same way as contact lenses. False, according to the Order of Dentists, which alerts the authorities to potential “severe complications”.
Finally, regarding the sale of whitening items, French and European regulations strictly regulate this practice. The products are generally made using a chemical compound: hydrogen peroxide, the concentration of which must not exceed 0.1% in over-the-counter products (compared to 6% at the dentist).
Young people affected by the world of influence
French and European regulations have not prevented the influencer Poupette Kenza to promote Crest 3D White brand whitening strips, which far exceed regulatory rates and whose sale is banned in Europe. At the end of November 2023, the Fraud Repression Agency (DGCCRF) sentenced the young woman to a fine of 50,000 euros for deceptive commercial practices.
According to the Google advertising transparency center consulted, these bands were still highlighted using sponsored advertisements specifically targeting the French market in January. Procter & Gamble, which owns Crest, did not respond to questions.
Beware of dental loosening
In large quantities, these acids are dangerous, even more so if they are applied to cavities or diseased gums. The dentist will perform scaling before lightening to remove surface discolorations. There is also “a risk of the whitening product overflowing” which can cause irritation or even retraction of the gums, the first sign of loosening teeth, specifies Dr. Lequart. “Dental lightening is carried out on minors while French regulations prohibit it, just as for pregnant women […]. On social networks, the target audience is relatively young and keen to save money. We can have disasters in terms of oral health,” he adds.
Brands often promise to gain “many shades”, or even achieve an unrealistic “sink white”. However, products that comply with regulations cannot give miraculous results, contrary to what those who advertise them suggest. A “big scam”, denounces orthodontist David Couchat: many of these influencers in fact exhibit a smile whitened by veneers (plated on the teeth), or even beauty filters. This fashion for perfect teeth is all the more damaging, according to Dr. Genevieve Wagner, that “at 20, we have teeth in good condition”.